Taking into account the scenario of Senator Botoe Kanneh in Gbarpolu County during the 2020 Special Senatorial Election when she and her supporters were reportedly intimated and chased into the bush by a town chief who used country devil with the intention of preventing them from campaigning while other candidates were reportedly campaigning in the area. As the result of the gender discrimination against the Senator, with the 2023 presidential and general elections ahead, prominent women are having discussions with potential candidates and traditional leaders to ensure it is not repeated.
Two female legislators Gbarpolu County Senator Botoe Kenneh, and Bong County District #6 Representative Moima Briggs Mensah called on the women of Liberia to stand side by side with each other so that the circumstances of the 2020 Special Senatorial Election will not reoccur.
The two lawmakers spoke on Monday, May 2, 2022, at a one-day mediation dialogue with traditional leaders under the flagship program of the ‘’Women Situation Room (WSR)” initiated by the Angie Brooks International Center for women’s Empowerment, Leadership Development, International Peace and Security in partnership with ZOA-Liberia with support from the United Nation Peacebuilding Fund, launched a project title: Sustainable and Inclusive Peace in Liberia Through Promoting Women Leadership and Participation in Civic and Political Life and Their Strengthen Role in Conflict Resolution, with Senator Botoe Kanneh situation in the 2020 Special Election a case study.
They encouraged male traditional leaders to allow women to serve in leadership and not to continuously keep them at the back, denying them their rights to participate in politics.
They at the same time inspired the grassroots women to stand firm and fight for women’s political emancipation across Liberia. Both lawmakers in separate remarks encouraged the local traditional female leaders to be courageous, strong belief in themselves, and join the revolution that will emancipate women in order to ensure women’s voices are heard and their plight is given attention and addressed.
Representative Moima Briggs Mensah added, There are too many challenges and disadvantages against women that are willing and ready to change the status quo by contesting for elected political offices but that can only happen when women are ready to challenge their male counterparts and ignored the threat, humiliation, intimation, and harassment that will come.”
Senator Kanneh who recounted her demeaning circumstances, narrating her election experience during the Special Senatorial Election in Gbarpolu County, the Lawmaker told the women to believe in God and establish good relationships with their fellow women and begin to interact with their fellow women not to wait until they are ready to contest elected position.
‘’ I was a dry meat and cook bowl seller that never even thought of venturing into politics but over the years I served as a humanitarian and through this process the same people that I have been serving chose me. However, I told them no but later I accepted after they put me in jail on grounds that I was supporting the people in the bush. Look, sometimes, when you are not molested, insulted, and harassed, you will not be strong.”
Also remarking at the program, the United Nations Senior Gender Advisor Ms. Comfort Lamptey said “We have to work to make sure the environment for women to compete is safe. In a democratic environment, women should be given the space so that we can have a developed society. Lots to be done to ensure that the environment is conducive for women’s participation.
“Intimidating women is not a behavior that should be accepted in a democratic nation like Liberia. I am delighted to see the decentralization of politics in Liberia. As much we want to see women in the national assembly we have to also strengthen women operating in the local government
“Having this conversation with all the Chiefs is important. We are committed, this is a priority area for us and we look forward to working with you so that as we go forward to see more women in the national assembly and local government, she added.
For her part, Bong County district 6 representative Moima Briggs Mensah called on the women to join their quest to increase women’s participation in the legislature in order to ensure the plight of women is not ignored by the majority of the men.
According to her, women’s political careers are killed only because potential women that contested before and did not win are given appointed jobs and through that they are mostly encouraged to support another candidate and forget about their dreams, saying that half of the cake is not whole because being a policymaker is better.
Further extolling the women for speaking out and motiving them, the Establishment Coordinator of the Influential Liberian-Based Angie Brooks International Center (ABIC) Cllr. Yvette Cheeson-Wureh encouraged the women to learn from the experience shared by both lawmakers and other prominent women, adding that her institution remains committed to enhancing and developing the capacity of women for leadership.
The program aimed at finding common ground between traditional practices and the electoral process so that they can not come into conflict with each other, using Senator Gbotoe Kanneh situation in the 2020 Gbarpolu County by-election as a case study. The program was attended by 100 chiefs from Bong and Montserrado Counties and several community chairpersons from communities in Montserrado County.
The program which was held at the Cecil Dennis conference room at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs brought together, prominent women including former Chief Justice Cllr. Francis Johnson Morris, Former Minister of Foreign Affairs Olubanke King Akerele, former Education Minister Everly kandakai, United Nations Senior Gender Advisor Ms. Comfort Lamprey amongst others.
Reported by: Stephen G. Fellajuah